BOOP: THE MUSICAL is Boop Oop A Doop Good!

BOOP: THE MUSICAL opened in Chicago last week and it was a star-studded opening night. The show itself is energetic, with a great cast, and impressive set, it’s a perfect show.

Who is Betty Boop you may ask?

First introduced in 1930, “Betty Boop” was created by Max Fleischer for his “Talkartoons” series, the world’s first animated “talkies” which Max’s company, Fleischer Studios, produced for Paramount Studios. Betty Boop initially appeared as a dog-like stage performer who sang and danced with another dog-like character named Bimbo. When Max was inspired after seeing a performance by Harlem Jazz singer, Esther Jones who went by “Baby Esther” he made Betty a full-fledged human character.  He even took Esther’s signature scat “Boop Oop A Doop” and added it to Betty’s character.

I had a conversation with Jasmine Amy Rogers who plays Betty in BOOP: The Musical and asked her about Esther Jones being Black and Max’s inspiration.

She responded, “I think Betty is, everybody has their own idea, but I think really for us, and what we’ve come to know is that it really did start off in this scat style that Esther Jones created. She really inspired that. She came up with that “boop oop a boop”, that baby scat style that then other people started to emulate, and all those women came together to create Betty. But when I do say she is based on so many women, she really is. But I do think at her core, Esther was really like, she gave birth to this idea of what could be, and this style of singing that we all know now, which is so amazing and inspiring. It is really special, obviously, to us as Black people. And it’s been really amazing to see the excitement that people have when they get to come and see the show and get to see Betty as a Black woman. It’s really, really cool.”

When the curtain goes up at the CIBC Theatre the audience is immersed in Betty Boop’s world of black and white. She is the star of her world and everything and everyone revolves around her. Betty is tired of being the center of attention and finds a way to go to the “real world” for just a little while for a vacation.

From the time Jasmine Amy Rogers hits the stage to the curtain call she has brought Betty Boop to life. Her voice, persona, and look are all Betty. She doesn’t play her as a caricature but as a real person. In my conversation with Jasmine, I asked her what the hardest part of playing Betty Boop was for her. She told me, “I think it was just the fact that everybody knows her. Everybody has their opinion on Betty. They love Betty. They know what she sounds like. They know what she looks like. So, it was a little nerve-wracking trying to imagine what it would be like living up to those standards. But it’s gone so well. It really does feel like the universe had a plan. And I’m one of those people that really believes that. If something’s made for you, it’ll find you. And it felt like this was really that thing for me.”

The universe got it right, not only with Jasmine playing Betty but the entire production. The standouts for me, and there were many, but I will only name a few, at the top of my list is Pudgy Betty’s dog. He is a marionette and the puppeteer behind him is the amazing Philip Huber. Five minutes after Pudgy appears Huber disappears. You forget that he is controlling the strings, Pudgy is real with personality and a great tail wag.

Other standouts for me are Angelica Hale who plays Trisha. This talented teen has a voice that can stop a show; Ainsley Anthony Melham plays Dwayne, the guy in the real world who falls for Betty. His voice and dancing are smooth. If I keep going, I will end up naming all of the cast.

There is magic in the show. When Betty travels from the cartoon world to the real world in a time machine it is magic. One minute she is there and the next they aren’t.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction, David Foster’s music, Bob Martin’s book, David Rockwell’s Scenic Design, and Gregg Barne’s Costume Design, along with the talented cast allow the audience to be a part of a cartoon world we have always wanted to visit. All we have to do is follow the bouncing ball.

I give BOOP: The Musical 5 out of 5 Winks of the EYE

Until next time keep your EYE to the sky!